Saturday, October 3, 2009


When I'm shopping, if I see REBATE, I grit my teeth.

Okay, I read the fine print:
Money back, in six weeks, or twelve weeks or three months if I send my name, age, occupation, address, phone number, email and the sales receipt.

The form is complicated, not laid out in a simple, clear format. What's clear is the "Null & Void" warning, if anything is left blank.

The overly complicated rebate annoys me. The idea of buying something and getting a rebate festers.


Because Mr. Manufacturer can sell my name and address! Because once I get my money back, what I've actually paid for the product, is maybe twenty-five dollars less than Mr. M's competitors!

Because the rebate distracts me from the rest of the deal -- the warranty, and the charge for services that you'll need.

Six months ago, after researching Time Warner, Earthlink, Verizon, Sprint, and AT & T, I went with Earthlink -- the saleslady was nice, and I wasn't sure, am still am not sure, what the different deals were.

The prices for this, for that --("this" and "that" called by a different name, by each service provider), the warnings about terminating the services (how much I'd be charged) if I didn't like the service and canceled for any reason, and the monthly charge. What a dummy I am -- not noticing. I didn't notice that the monthly price is higher after the first two months.

Mr. Manufacturer's wicked weapon -- distraction, the inventively varied names for essential services -- make comparison headachy, confusing, impossible.

It's intolerable! (See my posts: "Ad Lies." 4/25, "Sex Ads" 5/10; "Doodler Complaint" 6/7; "Scary Movies" 7/16.) I want to know what I'm doing, what I'm buying.

Hey, don't forget the big, all important S & H

I can't remember life before S & H -- the offer -- the kindly, generous open hand -- a second one, whatever it is, FREE!
Just S & H.
Which is Shipping and Handling.
Which is Stiffing and Haggling.
Which is Gypping and hooking.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I galloped downstairs whenever he buzzed. You don't want to leave a busy man standing outside, who's taking the trouble to hand-deliver your packages, rather than leave a note (which requires a phone call, or a pick-up at the post office).

And it wasn't just stuff for us, it was for the two other tenants.

We always had How are you. How's your family? conversations, often with Kirk's commentaries on the plays he and his wife had just seen. It took me a while to realize that he had strong, succinct comments, but he didn't impose them on me. (I appreciate that -- when acquaintances insist on praising, dissecting, raving on and on about a play, I retreat a bit, from the friendship.)

Kirk mentioned a wife and a young daughter. (I gave him tickets for the musical "Hpw the Grinch Stole Christmas" when JC was playing the narrator-dog, "Old Max.") A week later, there was a Hallmark thank you card in our mailbox, signed "Your postman."

Kirk didn't wear a uniform -- just ordinary, no-color clothes -- in winter, earmuffs with his jacket and cap, also workman's boots -- summer. a blue shirt, jeans, and sneakers. I'm not sure where he lives, but I know his last name from giving him a "Happy Holidays" check each year. Something he said makes me think that he wasn't worried about money -- his wife had a "good" job, editorial or executive secretary. I don't think of postman as a "good" job.

But I've evolved -- I used to think piano tuners were people who once played the piano, and wanted to be a concert pianist, or dreamed of playing with an orchestra, perhaps? (Probably, because when I was taking piano lessons I thought about being a famous pianist, and The owner of a music shop I talked to, said he had a similar failed dream.) I guess I should have asked Kirk -- how did you end up being a postman? I didn't because he seemed proud, pleased, comfortably ensconced in what I have always thought of as an unrewarding job. Not as low (on the good job totem pole) as street cleaner -- not as unpleasant as garbage man, who are higher, because they make "good" money.

(Mail carrier's starting salary: $7.70 an hour. Street clearner $7. Garbage man earns between $12 and 18 per hour.)

Okay, so why am I writing about Kirk?

Well ... he's a nice looking, stand-tall guy. I notice and like nice-looking stand-tall guys. Is it because he was a pleasant, helpful, undemanding "convenience?"

I don't like writing about him in the past-tense, even though in my life, he IS past-tense. Right now, he's probably traveling, seeing the Grand Canyon (which he mentioned wanting to see). He said that he was retiring, but this guy certainly wasn't in his sixties -- more likely early fifties.

I asked him (during our goodbye conversation), what are you going to be doing all day long? He smiled and said he'd probably be doing puzzles. He said he enjoyed crossword puzzles, and reading.
(I had a feeling he was making stuff up in order to give me the answer that I was apparently looking for.) "That's all?" I asked. And he repeated -- "I like puzzles, I enjoy reading."

So I'm left with a memory of a postman, not an ex-actor, not a guy who had big dreams and settled into mediocrity -- nope -- but a very special, interesting, polished, skillful, reliable, faithful, industrious, mysterious man who brought the mail and made it into an occasion.

It isn't that anymore. I miss him.

I like the fact that it wasn't important to Kirk Robbins, to make an impression, to make an imprint on JC or me. But he did.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Do what? Live my life again? Could I do things better?

What age, which self would I want to be?

Be young again? Have the affair I contemplated having? See my mom one last time before she died? Find another place in Malibu to live? Produce my "Shattering Panes" play one more time?

So, what about the be young things?

Be a beginner dancer? Could I stretch more, make myself more limber -- despite my feet, learn to dance on pointes? Be a ballerina, even though some of the steps, some of the essential moves still look silly to me?

Be a teenager, and have to deal with making the highest marks in school, and what am I going to be when I grow up? And pimples? And fall in love with the quarterback Dave, the handsomest big man on campus in High School.

I changed myself -- makeup, clothes, dimmed down my brain, learned to talk sports, made friends with Dave's side-kick, a shrimpy twerp who ran Dave's errands -- I actually gave this shrimpy kid the clever, facetious do-you-like-me note I wrote (lavender linen stationery, purple ink, each word worked over and over) to hand-deliver to Dave ... Never, never would I want to be back in those days and feel how I felt when Dave never, never, never answered.

So what about love -- other possible life partners -- go back and be in a position to consider the possibilities again? NOW? Hmm ... I'm not geared up by my upbringing, my era, to picture myself operating, functioning successfully in the current scene.

And what would I wear? I gave my wardrobe away -- all those fantastic outfits I had that were innovative, created by me to catch the eye of discerning men and women (mostly the later). Could I create clothes like that again? Would I wear Victoria Secret bras that create cleavage? Get boob enhancement surgery? Oh dear ... I don't think so.

Even if I could turn back the clock, could I unlearn what I know and feel? Would I want to NOT marry my first husband? No, gee, we created a dance company!

What would I want to go back and do again? Some job I did, like mopping the studio floor last night? I could have done it more carefully -- why didn't I put "SlipNoMore" in the water -- it makes the floor less slippery and I'm slipping too much?

No, the quick, light, cold-water mopping removed the layer of dust -- the dust is why I'm slipping. Anyhow, I can go back and mop it again if it's still slippery.

At the top of this page, the doodle (seven ages of Em) -- that's a job I've gone back and redone at least six times --scanned it, pasted a new face on the 2nd smallest toddler. Click it -- you'll see how I fussed over it -- going back and doing it again definitely improved the doodle.

Okay! "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again..." I can do that with writing, but would I? Do I want to go back and write another version of a "The Woman," a/k/a "Cordelia," a/k/a "Woman of the Century," a/k/a "Cordelia's Almanac," then "'Somebody"?

I, wore myself out -- wearing her clothes, living her life -- I grew up in her time, aged as she aged, even described her death so vividly I feel as if I've already described my own demise. No. I do not want to live through Cordelia's life again.

And "Shattering Panes" is a project that I'm finished with... (Shh ... I love the play -- wrote it for me to perform in with my husband and son, but where their careers are at, my revving it up, even doing another reading ... well it would be sweet for me, but a backward move for them -- fun maybe for JC but wrong for our son.)

Hey, a mother knows.

I keep thinking of the lioness patiently, sometimes impatiently boffing, pushing her cub out of the den so he'll learn to find food, avoid predators, and survive without her. What the cub knows, and what the cub does with what he's learned is HIS LIFE. (Even if Mom knows best, it has to be up to him.)

Ergo -- no play project for me.

Ergo, all that I've done, learned, yearned for, tried, avoided, regretted, loved, hated, mourned, and sought -- is me, moving ahead, sticking to what I am because that's me.

Hmm. I like that!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I am judgmental. Wow. am I?

I think of myself as a non-conforming, liberal person, and I joke with JC -- in a sassy way -- using some of the forbidden words to shock him, shock myself, with my pronouncing them.

So -- here -- off the top of my head -- "nigger, jigaboo, bitch, spook, nappy" -- words that recently got some well-known guys into trouble. Here are the words that got me into trouble -- "queer, faggot, fairy, queen."

They're slang words -- i.e. words that are more common in speech than in writing. Slang that refers to homosexuals fits in with other "bad" or "dirty" words used to refer to sex parts of the body, and various sexual practices.

List them? You know them. They're used frequently to shock us into attention. They're in movies, television, magazines, and books. They're not "bad" or "dirty" (to my ear, my tender heart), but it bothers me, upsets me seriously, when every other word in a movie is f- - -, and characters refer to Blacks as "Niggers" and call Jews and Latinos, kikes and spics.

(Oh boy, the flood of race prejudice that's escalating -- I'm judgmental about that ... the birthers, the senator shouting "You lieE!" at the President, a tea party person calling Obama a Hitler; and now, a poll on Facebook, "Should we kill Obama?" That is a whole other post, but it's on my mind as I write about some wrong words I have been using. )

I was taken aback, surprised when Fran, my blog coach, told me a sentence I wrote in one of my recent posts, sounded "homophobic, judgmental."

I was talk-writing in my usual style, about driving in the snow, on the way to morning assembly in Oskaloosa, Iowa -- "The chains were on, I was driving. Bill the stage manager was sleeping off his night of debauchery. He had a talent for finding a local closet queen after every show."

Gee, I didn't want to change it. Bill's nightly romancing was so typical -- the handsome, tall male dancers I hired were often homosexuals and most of them "cruised," looked for young boys, potential converts everywhere.

As for the girl dancers -- it never occurred to me to wonder about their sexuality. They were there, pitching in and helpful when I needed them, the boy dancers were not.

I was constantly aware of my male dancers' femaleness -- their taking on and imitating the repulsive characteristics of the American female "princess" -- the banal babble, flamboyant manners, the faint lisp (a sibilant "S"), the arched, flipped wrist, squeamishness, unreliability, the selfish, self-aggrandizing need for you to love, adore, and pay attention to them.

Anyway, back to that snowy morning. I rewrote my post: (See "Butternut Truck". 9/13) In it you'll read -- "The chains were on. I was driving. Bill the stage manager was sleeping off his busy night -- after every show he fell in love with someone new in every town we visited."

Okay, what was published isn't as interesting as what I'd written originally. But now I see that my "homophobic" prejudice, which I can explain and justify, based on my experience with homosexuals (queers, fairies, faggots, queens in and out of the closet) is harmful like race prejudice is harmful.

These men danced well, but they failed me -- I couldn't depend upon them, yet I needed them, and hired them. The "niggers" negros, darkies" in the south were and still are hurt, harmed, disrespected, deprived of many, many things because of people's experiences with them -- experiences, ideas and attitudes that are handed down from one generation to the next.

But who am I hurting, if in my private thoughts I'm thinking of them as queers, queens, faggots, etc.? Who are the tea partyiers hurting? Not President Obama per se, but all blacks (and me, and all of us who voted for him). The tea partyiers are expressing old prejudices, and not allowing other new, different experiences with blacks, to reach, touch, or affect them. And it's escalating, spreading, becoming an mind-set -- that poll in Facebook -- it's threatening what we believe in, what we stand for as Americans.

So my attitude toward homosexuals is a form of race prejudice? Yes.
So I have to change? Yes.
Gee -- even in my private thoughts, that's tricky, maybe impossible.

Well, if I censor and practice, the inner becomes the outer, outer becomes the inner. It's time for EM to change -- for me to change even in my private innermost thoughts.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Are you happy?

How old are you?

Why don't you go on vacations?

Why don't you like living in NYC?

How are you feeling today?

When can we have lunch?

What's "HAPPY?" I can't define it. Can you?

My age, HOW OLD I am puts me into a category that limits my freedom to be what I am.

VACATION is a period spent away from what I am.

LIVING IN NYC disconnects me from nature --sun, moon, sky and land. I like to be connected to all that.

HOW I'M FEELING is what I'm writing, explaining right here.

LUNCH, a midday meal, however light, makes me sleepy so I don't eat lunch.

The only important question in the list is how old I am. Easy to say the numbers, but the moment I do -- plop -- I'm defined by heavily advertised pictures, medical concepts, insurance policies, and your ideas about age. My being able to cavort, dance around like a kid, view the world as a teenager, a young mom, a motherly mother, or a sage, approaching the end of life -- is primary. I don't think I could write if I weren't free and able to do that.

In writing my plays and the novels, I became whomever I needed to be -- the central character or a minor character, any age, male or female. I just wore the clothes, absorbed the family background, lived in the world that my character lived in.

Writing my blog is different. Easier, more fun -- I'm me -- right now today, or yesterday or tomorrow. But reading my blog, maybe a question pops into your mind and you'd like to know more about something.

So, if you have a couple of questions, just click the TALK TO EM, ASK EM icon, and ask away. I'll answer right away, quickly, honestly ... maybe circuitously, if I need to protect my family or hang onto my freedom to dance around as me.

If it's an uncomfortable question, you won't get an answer -- I'll turn it around and ask you question.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


It was around midnight, a cold winter Saturday night. The building was empty except for me. I heard footsteps.

Someone had already broken into our 4th floor loft a few weeks earlier. There were chisel marks around the lock. It had been pried open. A tape recorder and TV were stolen, also a bicycle, in the lobby bike rack. The police lieutenant had said "There's robberies all the time around in this area -- probably an addict, not much we can do about it"

Our street was a business neighborhood, no one lived in lofts, most offices and factories were closed on weekends. (This "adventure" happened a few years before we bought the building.)

My doors were locked but whoever it was, could be heard coming up the first floor stairs ... second ... third ... our stairs. I wanted to call out "Who's there?" Was afraid to. Someone knocked on the studio doors. Hard. Then again, harder.

JC was in Boston in Richard Burton's "Hamlet," playing Laertes -- suffering because director John Gielgud had said "play Laertes as if you're wearing a pink shirt," and partying nightly with Burton, Gielgud and the celebrity cast.

The knocking stopped. Whoever it was retreated. I heard them going down the stairs.

Breathing a sigh of relief I picked up the phone to call JC ... heard the footsteps again. The person banged on the other door. It sounded like the door was being hit with a brick.

I was scared (trembling scared). There was more noise in the hall. Then a hammering sound. No doubt about it -- someone was pounding with a hammer. The door resonated -- there was a two- foot square thin iron plate in the center -- a wood door frame around it. The frame was splintering.

Phone in hand, I opened the fire escape door, got out on the fire escape. I was in rehearsal clothes (leotard and tights). It was freezing. My bare feet felt as if they were sticking to the steel platform. The banister was icy.

Could I get down the fire escape steps in bare feet, in the dark? The first floor steps were folded up and required weight on them in order for them to drop down to street level.

Would my hundred-and-three pounds do the trick? If I got to the street, where would I go? There was a gas station on the corner, but I wasn't sure it would be open.

I phoned the police.

Shivering, on the icy fire escape platform, I had a hard time saying my name, my address, and explaining "Someone is breaking down my door."

After about ten minutes (long minutes), watching the street from four stories above, I saw a police car turn the corner. I saw a man in a blue wool cap go down our front steps, turn left and walk to the avenue as the police pulled into our curb.

Re-opening the fire escape door, I peered into my home and saw our door with the iron plate jutting out of the bent, splintered, wood frame. The man in the blue cap couldn't have come in without more work or another tool.

A voice in the hallway called, "It's the police. Lady, you in there?"

Still holding the phone, not sure I was safe, I grabbed the bread knife and I unlocked, and opened the studio door.

Two young-looking cops in uniform, holding their guns came in. Talking about the weather, they went through the studio, dressing rooms, kitchen, bathroom, closet, and bedroom.

When they were finished checking, one said, "What's a nice-looking girl like you doing alone here on a Saturday night?"

His buddy took the bread-knife out of my hand, put it in the sink and asked me if I had a husband, was the loft my residence? When I told them about the previous robbery, and the man with the blue cap who'd gone down the front steps as they were arriving, they shrugged.

They said, "He jimmied the lock on the front door. It's wide open. Better get it fixed first thing tomorrow. The guy in the hat saw the us. He probably won't be back. If you hear anything give us call. After another "... nice looking girl like you shouldn't be staying here alone," they left.

JC in Boston couldn't return till after the Sunday night show. He got me to phone two of my men dancers, and told me what to tell them to do. Diane and her boyfriend Vic arrived.

Vic (a tall, strong, farmer type who couldn't dance very well, but looked great on stage), went to work, nailing a sheet of plywood onto the battered door.

Diane pressed me to come home with her. But I couldn't leave everything I owned, not with the front door to the building wide open.

So, Diane, Vic, and I moved things into the hall -- put the piano at the top of my steps, a large mirror, pile of books, dishes, set of drums, guitar, costume trunks. On their way out, they repositioned everything -- nobody could climb up the stairs without making a lot of noise.

I didn't sleep that night. Or the next night-- I could only cat-nap.

Monday, JC, a carpenter, a janitor from next door, the electrician who rented the basement, fixed the front door, installing double-locks and a buzzer system.

In the yellow pages I found two brothers who made steel gates.

They installed a floor- to-ceiling mesh wall and door with a special lock.

Ugly, scary, but safe.

Why am I telling this story? The robber in the blue cap got busy dancer, choreographer, Em into a renovations mode, that got me into my nesting phase -- painting pictures, having a baby, making a the home sweet home that you can visit (see posts -- "Painting Cities," May 20; and "Gallery." June 29.).

Click and you'll see how great it looks nowadays.